Breads have always intimidated me. How much is too much? What if it doesn’t rise in time? But then, I realized one day that there’s nothing like eating hot, homemade bread on some days and that’s when it all began.
The first time I actually had the courage to get myself to making some was during my first internship in a restaurant bakery and ever since that I fell in love with bread-baking. It’s the best kind of therapy!!
It’s all about science. And every time I bake bread there’s something new I learn in this whole process. I would love to share my experience but I’ll save that for another post soon.
Right now, I’d like to talk about the Italian bread that stole my heart.
Most fondly called the Italian slipper bread, it’s wonderful how it comes to life. It was the only bread made using hands when I was working at the bakery so I guess that’s how it caught my attention.
It is extremely sticky and loose and there are times you may feel you’ve done something wrong but don’t worry. If you find it too runny, add a little more flour but not too much otherwise you will lose the consistency.
Another great thing about this bread is that it is a ‘no-knead bread’. I was reading a recipe from The Kitchn that used the stand mixer and which may be more convenient to some of you’ll but I folded it in thirds which is so much gentler than kneading and also helps to build strength.
This bread doesn’t have to look perfect. It has no shape hence bringing out its rusticity which is such a great thing.
I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe based on the weather conditions. If you’re in a place with zero humidity, it could take even close to 24 hours. But adding a bit of sugar helps to fasten the process and hence I did the same.
I also decided to use biga (1/2 cup water+1/2 tsp active-dry yeast+1 cup flour) which is a pre-ferment that gives strength to our weak flours we get in India. I also have realized that gives out a wonderful taste and aroma and breads stay for longer.
To make the biga, first dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and stir to form a thick paste. Give it a good fifty or so brisk stirs to build up the gluten. Cover and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.
The texture of this bread is brilliant. It has a crisp and chewy crust and then a soft spongy crumb with some gorgeous holes.
It is so comforting to have in this weather along with a hot bowl of soup or pasta.
Adapted from The Baker’s Apprentice with Sarah Black